A timid, sensitive boy loves a young, beautiful woman. Initially she seems to love him too, but leaves him for a real man. The hunter beats the poetic boy to win the miller´s daughter. And, instead of just swallowing the disappointment and quite literally look for other fish in the stream, he drowns himself in it. Quite predictable, at least in the romantic universe of Schubert.
And what a major relief, that Jonas Kaufmann sings Die Schöne Müllerin without even a hint of whimpish sentimentality. A remarkable release for several reasons, but most importantly is the fresh and direct interpretation from both Jonas Kaufmann and Helmut Deutsch at the piano.
The obvious comparison is with Fritz Wunderlich, who delivers a classic reading focused on the creation of vocal moods and tonal beauty. Jonas Kaufmann bases his interpretation around sculpturing the words, rather than creating vocal moods, compromising more than occasionally with vocal beauty, especially with the sometimes strained and not entirely-in-tune topnotes. Does it matter? To some, it will. To me, it doesn´t. In that context, Jonas Kaufmann is interpretatively closer to Ian Bostridge, though without the neurotic quality of the latter.
I can hardly imagine a more fresh and direct, no-nonsense interpretation of this song cycle, which may very well be the one I will return to most often in the future.
Promotional video with excerpts:
The bottom line (scale of 1-5, 3=average):